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German police prepare for ‘violent’ Serbia fans ahead of England clash

Euro 2024 is set to start this Friday night in Munich when Germany take on Scotland at the Allianz Arena. Then, over the weekend, six more matches will take place including England's clash with Serbia in Gelsenkirchen on Sunday night.

The match between England and Serbia has already been labelled the most ‘high risk' match of the tournament due to the large numbers of England fans expected to travel to Germany, in addition to the hundreds of hooligans within the Serbian fanbase.

England fans and violence at major tournaments is a tale as old as time with countless tournaments over the past forty years marred by fighting and rioting. At Euro 2016, England fans were ambushed by a group of Russian hooligans in Marseille which left a couple of England fans in critical conditions in hospital and German police are fearful of a repeat this weekend with Serbia fans.

Current intelligence suggests that up to 40,000 England fans could be in the small city of Gelsenkirchen over the weekend while around 8,000 Serbia fans will make the trip over. Within that 8,000 will reportedly be around 500 hooligans seeking to cause trouble with opposition fans.

German police prepare for 'violent' Serbia fans
Serbia fans will be some of the feared supporters at Euro 2024 – Photo by Icon Sport

German police are prepared for Serbian hooligans

Speaking ahead of the match, Gelsenkirchen's chief of police, Peter Both told the Telegraph:

“There is risk, of course, but we are very, very well prepared. In principle, our riot-control units will keep a low profile. But if individuals or groups seek to cause disorder or engage in violent behaviour, these police units will be there. We will be there and we will intervene and take proactive action.

“The biggest challenge for us, for police, will be to identify violent, disruptive groups at an early stage and to separate them from peaceful and law-abiding fans. We don’t have concrete information but we can’t rule it out.”

The late kick-off time doesn't help matter, particularly given how much England fans like to drink. Naturally, high alcohol usage only increases the chances of violence.

England fans euro 2016
England fans were involved in violence at Euro 2016 and there are fears of a repeat this weekend – Photo by Icon Sport

Why Serbian hooligans should be feared

Football hooligans from Serbia are no joke and England fans should refrain from engaging with them should a confrontation occur. Violence plays a big part in Serbian football culture, with some of the biggest firms known as ‘The Gravediggers' and ‘The Head Hunters'.

These groups go beyond what fans in England would associate with hooliganism in that they are also involved in murders, rape and kidnappings away from football. Intelligence suggests that members of these groups will be in Germany during Euro 2024.

Fans of Manchester City found out just how brutal Serbian hooligans can be in December when they were attacked inside a bar in Belgrade with sticks before the Blues' clash with FK Crvena in the Champions League. Rangers fans were also attacked by Serbian supporters before a Europa League match in 2022.

What those fans experienced was nothing, though, compared to a horrendous incident that took place before a match between Toulouse and Partizan Belgrade in 2009. A 28-year-old Frenchman was beaten with iron bars and bicycle chains before being thrown off a cafe terrace in the Serbian capital. He died in hospital 12 days later as a result of the injuries.


Andy Delaney

Andy is a freelance sports writer with ten years of experience covering major sporting events across Europe. He has also been a season ticket holder at Old Trafford since 2008 and has visited over 40 football stadiums in the United Kingdom and abroad following the Reds.

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